“I’ll move mountains with their position here to keep them involved in their job hunt,” Harris said.
Volunteers are also required to save 70 percent of any income they receive — from salaries, disability checks or Permanent Fund Dividends.
But the in-house jobs also come with coveted privileges, including: a reserved bed, being allowed to remain in the building during the day, a personal storage locker and the right to extend the normal 30-day stay at the shelter to up to four months.
Reaping the rewards
Shelter manager Jim Stout has a paid position and works directly under program director Harris.
Stout is a Brother Francis Shelter success story. The one-time homeless Alaskan has worked his way up through the system, has his own home and oversees a staff of 55 at the shelter.
There’s a lot of competition for the 49 in-house positions, Stout said, and not everybody can make it.
“If they can’t get along with other people, they can’t hold the job,” he said. “Curfew is a challenge for many, and also alcohol.”
As a volunteer, Payne has a small bedroom in the staff quarters, which accommodates up to 10 people. He said some people “choose to use the shelter as a flophouse for a hangover” and addiction and mental health problems plague many guests.
But if you’re motivated, “this is an awesome place for people wanting to help themselves.”
Payne, like most people, never envisioned himself needing a shelter and for him, it was a last resort after burning too many bridges.
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“I came here because it was cold. I had nowhere else to go. I had a sweat suit on, forty dollars in my pocket, and I was isolated from my family. All I wanted was a bed for the night.”
He now sees his decision to come to the shelter as a pivotal one for his personal growth.
Harris said approximately 80 percent of shelter guests are men, and 20 percent female. Brother Francis is an adult shelter only, and about 35 percent of the guests already have full-time jobs.
“Who knows why they walk through our doors?” Harris said. It might be as simple as having lost the roommate who made an apartment affordable. It could be the loss of seasonal work.
On a recent February night, 250 men and women — ten over official capacity — filled the facility. On many cold winter nights, more than 300 people clamor for a spot on the floor, and the overflow is directed to nearby Beans’ Café, a soup kitchen, where shelter staff supervise for the night.
Rhodes remembers vividly her first night at the shelter.